More than 3.1 million Texans have filed for unemployment relief since mid-March

Staff Writer
Glen Rose Reporter

By Anna Novak and Mitchell Ferman

The Texas Tribune

The coronavirus pandemic has steered the economy into the path of a recession. In Texas, the state’s unemployment rate remains high, and more than 3.1 million people have filed for unemployment relief since mid-March. The week ending August 1, a total of 61,940 Texans filed initial applications for unemployment relief. Texas’ sales tax revenues — the largest source of funding for the state budget — dropped for several months and have created a shortfall that officials will have to fill.

The number of Texas families that have applied for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has increased, demand has spiked at food banks across the state and rent programs have run dry in various cities. The state’s outdated and understaffed unemployment insurance office has left countless Texans confused and without unemployment benefits.

Cities are furloughing and laying off city employees, and officials have already ordered state agencies to begin making budget cuts.

Even though businesses across a wide swath of industries are allowed to reopen, some bars and restaurants have voluntarily closed again after employees contracted the new coronavirus. Economists say weakened oil prices, high unemployment and the ongoing public health crisis will slow Texas’ economic recovery.

The week ending August 1, a total of 61,940 Texans filed initial applications for unemployment relief. This is the lowest number of weekly initial applications filed since mid-March. Since mid-March, about 3.1 million Texans have applied for unemployment insurance, more than in all of 2019. The Texas Tribune is tracking the number of out-of-work Texans filing for unemployment relief with the Texas Workforce Commission each week.

Texas’ unemployment rate in June was 8.6% —a drop from the 13% May jobless rate, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report released July 17. Experts say the improvements may be short-lived, as the state closed down bars and capped restaurant capacity in late June.

In July, Texas collected nearly $3 billion in sales tax revenues, an increase of 4.3% over the same period in 2019. This is the first time in months that Texas’ sales tax revenues increased when compared with the same period last year. Those revenues came from purchases made in June, when social distancing requirements were more relaxed across the state than in previous months.

Unemployment claims are updated each Thursday with data from the U.S. Employment and Training Administration and the Texas Workforce Commission. The unemployment rate is updated on the third Friday of each month with data from the previous month. Sales tax data is updated at the beginning of each month.